Top Doctors 2009: Defining Health Care

This year, Denver's best physicians help you wade through what has become the issue du jour: health-care reform. PLUS: Our annual, must-have list of 283 docs in 83 categories.

October 2009

Who Decides?

Frequently asked questions about the Top Doctors selection process.

Why didn't you choose my doctor? We don't pick the docs—Denver physicians do. For the past 16 years, 5280 has surveyed doctors and asked them, specialty by specialty, which metro-area physicians they would trust to treat them and their families. Our theory is that medical professionals are best qualified to judge other medical professionals. The ballot is posted online at www.5280.com from mid-April to mid-May each year. Every metro-area doctor with a valid Colorado medical license can fill it out. Once he hits "save," the votes are entered into our database and tallied.

So doesn't that make it a big popularity contest? In many respects, yes. We hope that doctors will give us careful, responsible answers, but there's little we can do to stop them from recommending their golfing buddies. Using the list is a lot like going to your doctor and asking for a referral. The difference is we're asking a lot more doctors than you ever could. Also, by raising our return rate (it was 16 percent—or 1,339 returned ballots—this year), we hope to correct for politics. The more doctors who participate, the less chance that any one person's aspirations will win out.

I thought my doc was a good physician, but she's not on the list. What does that mean? Nothing. She probably is a good doctor. The selection of doctors by peer review can leave many excellent doctors off the list. Because longtime, well-known doctors have the advantage of name recognition, the list may favor that kind of doctor. However, that in no way means your doctor isn't qualified and completely competent.

I'm a doctor and I couldn't access the online ballot. Why? We get the database of all licensed physicians in the state from the Colorado Board of Medical Examiners and select the doctors located in the seven metro-area counties (Denver, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Boulder, Adams, Douglas, and Jefferson), which results in a list of more than 8,500 docs. If you attempted to log on to the system with your last name and physician license number and received a pop-up response that "5280 could not locate your profile," that means there is a disconnect between your information and the information we have in the system. If you've recently moved to Colorado and haven't updated your address with the Colorado Board of Medical Examiners, for example, your license will not register as local and therefore will be invalid. If you have registered your license at an address outside the seven metro counties, you will not be in our database. If you have a hard-to-spell last name, it's possible that the information we have from the state is incorrect and you will have trouble logging in. In the future, if you have difficulty logging on, please use the "comment" tool on the Web site and let us know. We're happy to work through the problem so you can vote.

I've heard the list is rigged—that only doctors who advertise with 5280 make it. Is that true? Nope. The list is completely unaffected by which doctors advertise in the magazine. In fact, only two percent of doctors on this year's list are advertisers. Doctors sometimes choose to advertise after they've been chosen for the list, but how much or if and when doctors choose to advertise are not taken into consideration. Period.

How are the medical specialties chosen? Through the years we've worked to improve Top Doctors by updating the categories, increasing the number of eligible voters, and considering suggestions from health-care professionals. In recent years, we've refined our categories to include only specialties approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties (although we do not include every ABMS specialty). This system for choosing categories eases the confusion among doctors filling out the survey and reduces the amount of lobbying we get from doctors and hospitals that'd like us to include some rather obscure specialties.

So why aren't categories such as chiropractic and podiatry ever included? Although these areas of medicine are completely relevant and respectable, our list is a physician-only (MDs and DOs) directory.

Does 5280 check out all the doctors on the list? The magazine verifies every doctor's name, phone number, office address, and hospital affiliation. 5280 also takes the additional step of sending our list to the Colorado Board of Medical Examiners for approval—meaning doctors on our list do not currently have disciplinary actions against their licenses.

How do you choose the doctors you interview in the package? We believe our interviews are a great way to show readers that these physicians are not just names on a list. In choosing doctors, we do our best to vary the medical specialties represented and introduce you to doctors we haven't profiled before.